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Roanoker owner thanks employees, customers as restaurant prepares to close

Published: May. 15, 2022 at 8:21 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The parking lot was packed Sunday morning and the line was out the door.

It was the kind of crowd The Roanoker Restaurant often saw before the pandemic. But this day was different as regulars reacted to the news that the restaurant will soon close.

“It’s sad that it’s happening, because it is such a part of Roanoke,” said Catherine J. Keith

“God Bless the people that work here and I hope they can find jobs,” added Gigi Beckner.

The Roanoker opened in 1941, and operated in three locations downtown and later at Towers Shopping Center before moving to its current location 40 years ago.

Butch Craft has worked at the restaurant for almost 52 years, and said it was hard to deliver the news that the restaurant is closing.

“I don’t think anybody was shocked yesterday. We were all sad,” Craft told WDBJ7. “I couldn’t even finish telling them, because it was so sad.”

Craft has owned the restaurant since 2004, when owner E.C. Warren passed the torch to his longtime manager.

Craft thought the restaurant had survived the pandemic, but she said the challenges continued.

“Things just got worse,” Craft said. “I don’t know where the employees went, but you can’t hire anybody. You can’t get anyone to come for an interview. We cannot stay open the number of hours we want to stay open. And we work our employees who are here so hard, because we don’t have enough.”

Craft said she is proud that The Roanoker made it 81 years, and thankful for the employees and customers who stood by the restaurant during its long history.

“There have been so many amazing, talented people working here. And we have had such loyal customers,” Craft said. “They’re like our family. They really are.”

A history of The Roanoker is now in the works. The book will include some of the signature recipes that customers crave.

The Roanoker is scheduled to close at the end of May or the first of June, but Craft said she is still looking for a buyer who can write a new chapter of Roanoker history and continue to serve the restaurant’s loyal customers.

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